Two more swine flu cases confirmed in N.M.

The Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE — New Mexico health officials confirmed two more cases
of swine flu on Monday, bringing the total to three, as more than a
dozen schools in a handful of communities closed this week due to
concerns over the illness.

Sixteen schools — Carlsbad High School, Deming Intermediate School,
all public schools in the Lordsburg districts, all public schools and a
charter school in the Socorro district and a Veguita elementary school
— were ordered closed this week. The order also closed all
extracurricular activities, athletic and academic competitions and
after-school programs such as proms in the affected schools.

State health and education officials said it’s possible the schools could remain shut down next week, depending on flu cases.

Over the weekend, New Mexico confirmed its first case of swine flu,
in an 18-year-old Valencia County boy who the state Department of
Health said is home-schooled and is recovering. On Monday, the state
received confirmation from the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention on two Socorro County cases — a 14-year-old female and
15-year-old male who have both recovered.

Public Education Secretary Veronica Garcia said the confirmed cases
increased the chances other probable cases will test positive.

State officials asked parents of students at the closed schools to
keep their children home and prevent them from congregating to prevent
the spread of swine flu, which state officials are calling by its
official designation, H1N1 flu.

“We hope people adhere to the guidelines in the interest of their
children’s health and that of the community,” Garcia said Monday.

She also reminded parents not to send sick children to school.

How the closed schools will make up the time will be decided on a
case-by-case basis, Garcia said. Some may have enough time built into
their calendars, while others could lengthen the school day or extend
the school calendar, she said.

To be fair to the closed schools, the New Mexico Activities
Association suspended all athletic and activity programs, including
games and after-school practices, for all NMAA schools. NMAA Assistant
Director Robert Zayas said that will keep all schools on equal footing
before state championships.

Tests are under way on 12 probable swine flu cases: a Bernalillo
County man; three adults, one teen and one child in Eddy County; two
teens and two children in Hidalgo County; a teen in Valencia County;
and a child in Luna County. The Department of Health did not have the
conditions of three of the Hidalgo County patients, but said the others
who became ill are recovering.

Garcia said state officials considered several things before
deciding to shut down schools, such as whether children got sick on a
Saturday and never went to school, attended school the day they became
ill or had siblings who went to school. The state has said an
investigation of students with probable cases found they were in school
when they were contagious.

The CDC is looking into whether the infectious period for H1N1 is
the same as for seasonal flu. Health authorities say people with
seasonal flu are infectious a day before showing symptoms and about
seven days after.

The Department of Health said the best thing people can do to avoid
the disease is wash their hands often, cover their cough with a tissue
or their arm and stay home if they’re sick.

Symptoms of swine flu include a fever, cough, sore throat, body
aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Diarrhea and vomiting also have
been associated with it.

State toll-free flu hot line: 1-866-850-5893